World Made by Hand
By Brenda Tremblay ~ Posted Mon, 04/14/2008 - 11:24am
I just finished James Kunstler’s new novel World Made by Hand. It’s the best book I’ve read in awhile. Years ago, Kunstler’s anti-suburbia polemic The Geography of Nowhere greatly influenced my thinking about urban planning, architecture, and public spaces. In his later non-fictional The Long Emergency, Kunstler imagined what our lives will be like (yes, he says, this WILL happen) when we run out of oil. The new novel is an apocalyptic, fictional telling of the same story, set a few decades from now in a small town in Upstate New York that mixes elements of Mad Max with Little House on the Prairie. There’s no oil, therefore, no cars or central heating. New York City is a flooded wasteland, Washington D.C. a nuclear disaster. There are rumors of a U.S. President, and he may be in Minneapolis, but no one knows for sure. Climate change, disease, and war force people to retrench in every way imaginable. Travel is slow and infrequent. People grow vegetables in their yards. Landfills are gold mines.
Music plays an important part in people’s lives, perhaps more so than it does now. The main character, a former software executive named Robert Earle, is a skilled violinist with a band, and his ability to make music in a world without electricity earns him some status and protection from his neighbors.
The New York Times review comes out later this week (April 20.)